How to Choose the Best Fish Oil Supplement

By Michael A. Smith, MD

Are you looking for a high-quality fish oil supplement? The good news is that there are hundreds of fish oil products to choose from. The less-than-ideal news is that almost all of them claim to be the best. So how are you supposed to pick the right one? Here’s a little help.

Generally speaking, fish oil needs to be derived from freshly harvested fish caught in deep waters that are far removed from any major shipping lanes. The raw materials need to be handled with the utmost care from boat to bottle to ensure that freshness is preserved.

The fish must be kept on ice and need to arrive at the processing plant within a few hours of being caught. To guarantee quality and safety, full disclosure and accountability must be maintained throughout the entire process from start to finish.

So how can consumers make sure that the fish oil we buy really meets these guidelines? The IFOS exists for just that very reason.

The International Fish Oil Standards

The International Fish Oil Standards (IFOS™) is an international program dedicated to the quality of omega-3 fish oil products. Its mission is to ensure that pure, concentrated fish oil products are available to consumers.

The IFOS uses criteria for determining fish oil quality that has been established by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN). With growing contamination concerns and clinical data pointing to the negative effects of heavy metals from edible marine sources, the IFOS program continues to grow in popularity and prove its value as a reliable source for third-party validation.

Consumers are becoming more and more aware of the many clinically established health benefits that omega-3 fats have to offer. At the same time, people are becoming equally concerned about quality and contamination issues. This is precisely why the IFOS has become so very important. This statement, taken from the IFOS website, offers a great summary of its role: “The IFOS delivers a suitable venue for the fish oil supplements industry to showcase credible product sources.”

The IFOS Five-Star Rating Report

The IFOS periodically produces something called the Five-Star Rating Report. This report identifies fish oil products that have been tested and shown to meet its strict standards of purity and quality. Each fish oil product that’s tested is given a “star” rating based on the findings.

A product is given 5 stars if it meets or surpasses all 5 of the IFOS standards. Here’s how the star ratings break down:

  • 5 Stars – Exceptional Quality
  • 4 Stars – Very Good Quality
  • 3 Stars – Good Quality
  • 2 Stars – Fair Quality
  • 1 Star – Poor Quality

Assurance through Third-Party Validation

The IFOS offers an unbiased, third-party validation system for fish oil products — a much needed resource for consumers who want to make safe, educated choices about the fish oil products that are on the market. For this reason, you can be confident that any 5-star rated product is high-quality and contains the concentrated levels of omega-3 fatty acids you’re after.

To see how any given product ranks, you can visit the IFOS fish oil consumer report here.



Have any questions about the IFOS or choosing a Fish Oil supplement? Ask us in the comments.

“IFOS™ certification mark is a registered trademark of Nutrasource Diagnostics, Inc. These products have been tested to the quality and purity standards of the IFOS™ program conducted at Nutrasource Diagnostics, Inc.”

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